I always say that rivalry games – the real, true, “this is our biggest rival” type of games – are my very favorites of the year during football season, and Friday night was one of those times that shows why.
Hatley and Smithville’s rivalry is always one that everyone gets excited for every year. It doesn’t really matter what kind of team either one of them is bringing back (although this year, both are pretty good teams, in my opinion), those two are always ready to play each other.
This year, the crowd was amped up for it as well, and that was obvious from the moment I arrived at the field. Usually I get to a football game at least an hour early, but I was running about 15 minutes later than usual. Even getting there 45 minutes before game time, the parking lot was nearly almost full, and I’m not sure I can remember seeing such a huge crowd for any game in the last 7-8 years.
The game started out living up to the hype and being the close one that I figured it would be as each team had scored a touchdown in just the first two minutes. Even though I had predicted a defensive showdown based on how each team’s defense had looked in the first week, then I changed my mind and knew we could have a shootout on our hands.
Then Smithville found its groove and had a pretty good lead by halftime, and you thought, well, there’s the story of this game. It kind of felt like last year with Octavion Miller and his group of receivers clicking on all cylinders and airing it out.
Not so fast, Hatley proved as they came out and showed what they did when I saw them last week against Hamilton. Nick Washington had a tremendous game – especially the second half, as he was unstoppable yet again. The Tigers’ defense made a couple of big plays as well, and before we knew it, Hatley was threatening to tie the game in the final seconds.
Jabril Smith ended up being one of the heroes in the end as he caught the interception that sealed the deal for Smithville, and I know that’s a play that he won’t forget any time soon.
It’s a game that all those people that packed out Smithville won’t forget any time soon, all those people that were still lined up waiting to get out of the parking lot as I feverishly wrote my story from my car and worked to meet deadline for the Daily Journal.
A lot of years, it’s the A-Game that provides us with that tooth and nail, down to the wire finish in a rivalry game (and that might be the case again here in a couple of weeks), but this year, it was the Noles and Tigers that put on an instant classic for us.
Last week, we had a lot of blowout games in Week 1, and I thought, ho hum, is this the way that football season is going to go?
Smithville and Hatley turned that thinking around this week, and I can’t wait to see what games like that we could have left.